Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Presenting poetry: Practice makes perfect December 7, 2012

THAT WELL-KNOWN ADAGE of “practice makes perfect” proved prophetic for me Thursday evening during a poetry reading in Faribault.

An event which I had fretted/worried/stressed about for the past week nearly went off without the proverbial hitch. (I struggled only once, as I read a poem about my son being struck by a hit-and-run driver six years ago.)

Peter Allen presented with me Thursday evening at the Faribault library. I handed my camera to my husband and he tried to get some decent shots shooting available light. This one is the best.. And, no, I am not not sleeping. I'm either contemplating Peter's poem or glancing at my script. Photo by Randy Helbling

Peter Allen presented with me Thursday evening at the Faribault library. I handed my camera to my husband and he tried to get some decent shots shooting in available light. This one is the best. And, no, I am not not sleeping.

Yes, I did it. I stood before an audience and read/discussed poetry along with a co-presenter for 1 ½ hours.

The secret to that success most certainly was practice and, as I emailed my virtual, now real-life, blogger friend Beth Ann, prayer. Beth Ann traveled all the way from Mason City, Iowa, 20 miles south of the Minnesota border, with her husband, Chris, to hear me and Peter Allen present.

Me reading "Prairie Sisters," my first poem of the evening. The poem was published in volume two of Poetic Strokes.

Me reading “Prairie Sisters,” my first poem of the evening. The poem was published in volume two of Poetic Strokes.

About that practice… I’ve been reading my poetry and scripts to my kitchen walls for the past week, rehearsing twice on Thursday and even more on Wednesday. When I phoned my husband, Randy, late Thursday afternoon to remind him of the presentation (he’d asked me to do so), he inquired, “Have you been smoking? Your voice sounds hoarse.”

He was joking, of course, as I don’t smoke and can’t even tolerate cigarette smoke.

I’d been practicing, I told him. Perhaps I’d rehearsed enough if my voice was growing raspy.

The scene in the Great Hall before the audience arrived. It's a gorgeous venue.

The scene in the Great Hall before the audience arrived. It’s a gorgeous venue. I used a few props and visuals in presenting.

Here’s one of the biggest surprises of all from the evening: Because I felt so confident going into the presentation, I actually, truly, enjoyed myself. Who would have thought? Not me.

Second, the turn-out of 32 audience members floored me and Peter. I expected perhaps a dozen. Buckham Memorial Public Services Librarian Allyn M. McColley, who coordinated the event, shared my enthusiasm for the high audience attendance. And, honestly, I did not personally invite a single person, although I did post about the event here last week.

I am grateful that so many ventured out of their warm homes on a cold December evening to embrace poetry. Such interest warms this poet’s heart. I could hear that interest in the laughter, in the questions, in the comments.

It also warms my heart that my two dear friends, Billie Jo and Tammy, both the mothers of young children, would choose to hear me read poetry on their girls’ night out.

And then to think that blogger Beth Ann, whom I’d never met prior to Thursday evening, drove more than an hour with her husband from northern Iowa to listen to me and Peter present simply touches me. (Beth Ann blogged this morning about our meeting and the poetry presentation, so be sure to click here and read her engaging piece.)

Finally, my dear husband, Randy, who helped me tote a van full of props and books and food to the library and then assisted with props and hand-outs, took me out to dinner afterward. We dined at a lovely Italian restaurant, Augusto’s Ristorante, several blocks from the library. It was the perfect way to end a fabulous evening.

FYI: Click here to link to photos posted on the Buckham Memorial Library website.

I believe this is a bust of Judge Thomas Scott Buckham, after whom the library is named. His wife, Anna, gifted the city of Faribault with this Art Nouveau/Greek Revival style building constructed in 1929-1930. The bust is located above the fireplace in the Great Hall, right behind where Peter and I presented.

I believe this is a bust of Judge Thomas Scott Buckham, after whom the library is named. His wife, Anna, gifted the city of Faribault with this Art Nouveau/Greek Revival style building. The bust of this pioneer settler is located above the fireplace in the Great Hall, right behind where Peter and I presented.

One of several Greek murals gracing the Great Hall.

One of several Greek murals gracing the Great Hall.

Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault, was built in 1929 with a Greek theme. Interior features include a Charles Connick stained glass window and Greek murals.

Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault, was built in 1929-1930 with a Greek theme. Interior features include a Charles Connick stained glass window and Greek murals. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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20 Responses to “Presenting poetry: Practice makes perfect”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    It was such a fabulous evening for us, too, Audrey!!! it seemed like a no brainer when you posted last week that you were presenting to make the short trip. I didn’t tip you off in case something came up and we couldn’t make it but it was so wonderful. I loved the library (thanks for the info above about the library and the namesake) and the atmosphere was so wonderful there! You and Peter did such a delightful job and it was engaging and entertaining. So glad to be a part of your fabulous evening.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Beth Ann, for coming, for surprising me, for being the type of person I am blessed to call a friend.

  2. Jackie Says:

    Wow, I’m impressed that you can talk in front of a crowd, not only that but “Read poetry”, I would be stuttering to beat the band. l’m happy for such a great turn out, and that your reading went off “without a hitch”. How exciting for you and Beth Ann to meet, I hope to do the same one day. Enjoy your weekend Audrey 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I can’t believe I did this either and had fun with it. Truly, the practice made all the difference. Plus, I’ve read my poetry to audiences several times in the past year and each experiences makes the next time that much easier. I’m not saying I’m ready to more public speaking engagements, just that I’m beginning to feel more comfortable.

      I’m pondering a summer gathering of bloggers (and their “worried” spouses; see Beth Ann’s post this a.m.) at my home. That would be fun, I think.

      • Jackie Says:

        What can I bring 🙂

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Oh, Jackie, I just knew you would want to come. So now I’ve pretty much committed to this by putting the idea in the public realm, haven’t I? I was thinking potluck. Will keep you posted.

  3. I was at your reading last night. It was great. I enjoyed both of you. I am a fellow Faribaultite and Poet. I wonder if you would read some of my work and critique it. I have a blog: marshallarmstrong.blogspot.com I have 60 posts there, some poetry and stories. Thanks very much. I also have a new blog : marshallbutcharmstrong.com

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Marshall, thank you so much for attending last night’s poetry event. I must say, you all were a most attentive and engaging audience. Peter and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening with you, reading our poetry and sharing our insights on the craft of writing.

      Sure, I’ll peek at your work and offer some comments via email to you personally. Just give me some time; perhaps I can get back to you next week.

      • Thank you very much. I’ve never published anything so it would be great to hear what a real poet thinks.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Just because you have not been published does not mean you are not a “real poet.” But I do understand what you mean when using that terminology. Only in recent years have I begun to feel, too, like I’m a “real poet,” even though I’ve truly been one all along.

        Remember my advice: Dare to submit. Poetry is meant to be shared. Rejection will come; it has for me. But if you don’t try, you will never know. And sometimes, when one place rejects a poem, another will accept it. That’s happened to me.

  4. What a Beautiful Place to Gather and Hear Poetry! Glad you made it and really enjoyed the experience – Way to Go:) Happy Friday!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Isn’t that just the most lovely room? The entire old part of the library is simply stunning, with artwork throughout the complex.

      I am thankful, so thankful, that I was able to entirely enjoy the experience.

  5. That’s wonderful, Audrey. I know it must have taken a lot of courage to stand up there.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, yes, about a week ago, I wondered, why did I agree to do this? But practice built confidence and I really was not scared at all.

  6. Congratulations on a successful event! Now, go plan another 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Kathleen. Well, then…after the holidays? I still would much rather write than present.

  7. Bernie Says:

    Beth Ann posted on her Facebook page last night, “I went to Fairbult to meet a bloggy friend in person.” I was so excited!! I knew it had to be you. I’m so glad you got to meet in person. One day I will meet you both. It made my night knowing you guys had a meet and greet.
    Congratulations on the poetry reading!! However, you could write for the back of a cereal box and I would still read it. I love your writing. *hugs*

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, Bernie, meeting Beth Ann was wonderful and even more so because I had no idea she was driving up for my poetry reading.

      You are so sweet. Now how do I get a job writing copy on cereal boxes?

  8. Clyde of Mankato Says:

    Glad it went well. Despite how often my wife, an ex-librarian, and I have driven by the building, we have never gone in. Quite the set of architecture in that part of your fair city. Such a mix.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Next time you are in Faribault, known as “the Athens of the West,” you must tour the library. Be sure to view all of the artwork scattered throughout the facility.


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